What do cars, cell phones, and computers have in common? They are all products of technology which I use every day but with only the vaguest idea of how they work or how to fix them if they break. Generally speaking, when any of these items malfunctions, I need to turn to an expert in order to resolve the problem. With one exception.
On occasion in the past, when my computer started slowing down, freezing up, showing error messages, or doing other goofy things, I have been able to correct the problem by turning the machine off, waiting a few seconds, then turning it on again—what computer people call a reboot.
A reboot clears out the computer’s memory and otherwise restores the operating system to a condition in which it is free from extraneous data of various forms which accumulate during normal usage. It doesn’t create a blank slate, but it gets rid of “digital detritus” which can electronically gum up the works and prevent the machine from doing its job most effectively and efficiently.
I believe that, for the Anglican Church in North America, it is time for a reboot.
Not a major overhaul. The American Anglican community has experienced that already, beginning around 1999, when the Archbishop of Rwanda consecrated missionary bishops for ministry in the US, and culminating in 2009 with the formation of the ACNA and the investiture of Archbishop Robert Duncan. I applaud the courage and the vision which such a step of faith required. I am an Anglican today because God providentially brought me to this communion at this moment in its history. Had the Episcopal Church been the only portal into Anglicanism open to me, I would never have been confirmed (not to mention ordained) as an Anglican.
I love my new ecclesiastical home. I want to see it flourish and grow. I want others to find what I have found in Anglicanism. For that to happen on a grand scale, however, I believe we need to reboot—to clear out some old thinking which could (and I believe will) impede our progress and distract us from the goal of advancing the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Chiefly, we need to remind ourselves that we are not the Episcopal Church and that the “denominational realignment” of those parishes which were formerly part of TEC must involve more than merely a new name on the church sign. Unlike TEC, which is not known for aggressive church planting and is made up mainly of well-established parishes and a fairly affluent membership, the ACNA is a pioneer movement with a missionary impetus.
Archbishop Duncan has issued a challenge to plant 1000 new ACNA churches by 2014. It is a worthy goal and in the best interests of all of us orthodox Anglicans to see that goal accomplished and to do everything we can to make it a reality. Many new “church plants” have already been undertaken, but the only way those new plants, and others yet to come, will take root and grow into healthy, productive churches is for larger, older, more well-established parishes to help nourish and cultivate those infant churches until they achieve self-sufficiency. This will likely require a sense of stewardship which is willing to trim local aspirations in order to share resources in service to a higher goal, namely advancement of the Gospel.
The Archbishop’s vision will only become a reality when every ACNA diocese adopts a “missionary mindset” and every parish embraces a “growth by extension as well as expansion” ethos. The ACNA must be characterized by cooperation and sacrificial sharing, not by competition and turf wars. We’re all in this together to bring glory to God and to raise up communities of faith that proclaim and embody the grace, mercy, and love of Christ.
It is a new day for Anglicanism in America. The opportunities are great, but so are the challenges. This is not a time for “business as usual.” It’s time to reboot.